Tonight's win against the Sixers in Philly makes Coach Woodson 5-0 as the Knicks head coach. A hard-fought grind out win like that is not necessarily good for TV ratings, coz both teams struggled at the offensive end. But it's good for the players, because it prepares them for the playoffs. Coming playoff times, there will be a lot more games like tonight than last night.
Amare Stoudmire has led the Knicks in the first 3 quarters, and Lin finished off the Sixers in the fourth quarter. Knicks started strongly with tight defense, and held the Sixers without a field goal 7 minutes into the game. They opened up a big lead, with some nifty ISO plays by Amare and Melo. Once again, Tyson was big at the defensive end, battling hard on rebounds and loose balls.
As I said in the afternoon, it's quite obvious that a defensively strong and athletic Sixers team will rough up Melo and Lin, to make others to beat them. They were successful in 3 quarters. They lost not because of defense, but rather because of offense, or lacking thereof in the 4th. Holiday played Lin very well, thanks to the officials, allowing lots of physical plays. I think it's good for Lin and Co, to get used to this kind of play. Because it will be the norm, for away games in playoffs, facing a hostile crowd (but Lin's getting his supporters anywhere in the States now).
As we all know, Lin's handle is still shaky at times, his dribbling not hard enough, and he doesn't have a go-to move to put up a jump shot. Once his driving lane is cut, and passing lane is played hard, he will have a hard time to play well. They started defend him as soon as he got the ball at the back court, he was even having a hard time to bring the ball over the half court. There were a few times, he almost got himself a 8-second back court violation. Lin needed Tyson or Amare or Jeffries to set a pick for him to bring the ball up at his own back court. That's also why from the second quarter, sometimes Melo brought the ball up.
To be honest, it was ugly to watch, that Lin struggled that much. I was ready to give him a D rating after 3 quarters. 1-11 field goal, and a few assists. He played hard on defense, so that he wasn't a pure negative on the court. Thanks to Amare and the bench, they contributed enough in a low scoring game, to keep the Knicks ahead.
Melo was roughed up as well, Hawes and Brand were simply too much for Melo. Luckily, he wasn't all discouraged, and also played pretty hard at the defensive end. Sixers aren't offensive juggernaut, with Knicks' individual contributions, it looked like a totally winnable game all night long.
That's why you need star players. When your opponent play good defense to deny you easy shots, and moving the ball alone can't get you open shots, you need to have players able to create for themselves, and score with one on one tight defense or even double team.
I am glad I didn't send a post to give Lin a D or D- before the 4th quarter, coz I had hope that he would come big in the closing 12 minutes. Oh man, he did come BIG. He's playing like an emerging Mr. 4th quarter. He scored 16 of his 18 points in the 4th quarter. Although 10 of them were from the free throw line, those were high pressure free throws, determined the outcome of the game. I still remember Yao has missed his last 5 free throws in game 4 against Dallas in the playoffs, if he had made 3 of them, we would have had to rewrite history. Jeremy Lin was so cold-blooded, and sank all 10 free throws.
JR Smith played very well at both ends of the floor, and provided much needed spark from the bench. Baron Davis played some solid minutes back from injury offensively, although he had some very sloppy defensive plays. Jeffries again, is Knicks' Mr. Intangible, whose effort couldn't be all seen on score board or stat sheets. Hopefully his injury won't keep him sidelined for long.
I have to give coach Woodson credit, for having the guts to leave Tyson on the bench in the 4th quarter. Defense was the key to win this game, but offense was desperately needed against the hard defending Philly team. Amare was big tonight, showing his ability to finish around the rim, his 15 feet jumper, and his willingness to rebound and defend. Boy, that block on Elton Brand was huge.
Young teams are going to make mistakes, as long as they can learn and move on. JR Smith's crazy long pass in the dying minute was crazy indeed. With all the advantages at hands, time, timeout, ball, and the score, he chose the worst attempt:) Sixers totally lost the awareness of score and time, didn't even foul in the last 3 seconds, while trailing only 3 points.
Allow me to pay tribute to Elton Brand. I can't say enough about that guy. He used to be the No. 1 pick, 20-9 guy, all star. Now he's doing everything to help the team. He drained jumper after jumper in the first half, and then he played so big defensively in the second half, when Sixers totally went away from him. His 12 rebounds and 5 blocks definitely caused lots of trouble of Knicks' offense. What a professional, and what a ball player. Too bad that he never got the chance to play with a winning team.
Tonight's win is obviously total team effort. Amare was the best player on Knicks, but Lin's star shined the brightest, for he delivered when it mattered the most.